Tag Archives: Learning Materials

The Best Ways to Learn English

8 May

Students eager to add English to their language fluency repertoire often find themselves trying a variety of learning methods and materials looking for the magic key that will instantly make them good at English.

Films, TV programs, radio, books, music, private tutoring or even travelling overseas to participate in an intensive language experience and education program are all great ways to learn ESL with good results, depending on the sincere efforts of the learner.    I’ve had students employ some or all of these methods as part of their English-learning adventure, and while I can’t attest wholly to their individual effectiveness as this would truly depend on a list of nameable factors, I can pass along my suggestions as to what methods seem to be the most enjoyable and popular among my avid-ESL-learning students here in busy Seoul.

WHAT I THINK:  

Sift, sift… What, then, is the BEST way to learn English?  Permit me to offer my humble opinions and then let’s take a closer look at this eye-popping Kaplan International Colleges infographic to see what results they’ve surveyed.

Learning English, or any language for that matter, is a fluid, ebb and flow process of learning, assessing, reflecting, forgetting, re-learning, focusing, taking time off for things that come up in life, re-strategizing, studying…. In other words, it is a human process.  We are each unique learners and bring our own lives to the process of language learning.  It isn’t easy and there isn’t a magic key.

  • A comprehensive approach with lessons and activities planned around the interests and needs of student is what I think is the path to successful, confident second-language use.
  • A focus on conversation/experience with a native speaker – either in group classes, 1-1 tutoring, or by travelling to an English Speaking country like the USA or Canada to infuse yourself into culture and language.

And now the bright and sparkly Kaplan International Colleges Infographic titled “How to Learn English”:

 After Thoughts: 

Only 8% of people think of Canada as an English study destination?  How sad…

Many of my students LOVE to study with the TV Program “Friends,” and find it applicable to real-life casual conversation.  Other popular ones, as this infographic demonstrates are CSI and Gossip Girl.

Films, yes, but I don’t know many who prefer using them over studying with a native speaker or using TV programs which are shorter and more manageable. Yet, they’re popular.  There are some difficulties for the educator to use movies as a basis for lesson planning for the classroom, but do-able.

Using music and song is a great way to learn idiomatic expressions and slang, therefore making it good for informal, everyday conversation and listening practice.  Especially great for the audio-linguistic learner.

Comics are popular in Korea, and after reading some inspiring ones, I love seeing younger students get really involved and creative making their own comics with imagination and spontaneous ENGLISH!

Great work Kaplan! ^^

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Experiential Learning for the ESL Classroom – Philosophy and Activities

20 Apr

I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.

Confucious

There has been a lot popping out at me on reflective teaching practices these days, like a hint that’s perhaps telling me to learn more about this topic and to make more time for professional reflection, and among other thoughts, it’s brought to mind the important role that reflection plays in experiential learning.

Experiential learning is not only for learning within L1 classrooms, it can be applied in the ESL Classroom because it builds on the principles that when students are cooperatively engaged in a motivating project, task or experience, and then reflective or mindful of the results and how to further apply them, they are actively participating in the learning (and self-teaching) process.

More than field trips to museums, ponds and post-offices – this is a method of learning with practices that can successfully be applied in the ESL classroom.

A Touch of Experiential Philosophy

Experience-based, task-based and project-based learning becomes experiential when elements of reflection, support and transfer are present after the learning experience (Knutsen, 2003).

In the early 1980’s, educational psychologists Mezirow, Friere and others “stressed that the heart of all learning lies in the way we process experience, in particular, our critical reflection of experience.”   They thought of learning as a cycle that begins with an experience, continues with reflection and ends with action (Rogers, 1996).  And while thereseem to be some discrepancies in the phases of teaching (or facilitating – a word I prefer) experiential learning, I think the heart of the philosophy is satisfied with the four: Exposure, participation, internalization and dissemination.

Experiential learning begins with EXPOSURE, experiencing something, either first hand or through simulation, that is of interest to the learner and is perhaps something the desire knowing about or become interested in during the process.  The educator has introduced the topic, task or project, selling students on it and highlighting expectations.

Through PARTICIPATION, the learner cooperatively participates in an experience using ESL which typically involves group work, and therefore – communication, peer-guidance, taking on roles, responsibilities and following time-lines.

Next comes the critical process termed INTERNALIZATION, where  the educator facilitates reflection on the experience and encourages students to draw attention to how they participated in the process, and their feelings about it.   The importance of this part of experiential learning process can’t be undervalued and it can take careful consideration and experience for an ESL educator to get students thinking and talking here.  Reflection is how the student will come to learn about themselves – how they participated, what roles they assumed, what they found difficult or easy about the task/project, the challenges of group work (especially in some cultures where individual success tends to be the primary focus..ahem..South Korea).

Finally, a process termed DISSEMINATION occurs where what has been learned in the classroom is brought into the real-world.  It’s hoped that the learner successfully transfers the newly acquired knowledge or assumptions from the experience into future actions and opportunities for learning.

Experiential Learning Activities for the ESL Classroom

Sounds good.  A realistic experience, motivation, reflection…key words that resonate  and a process that makes sense to my senses, exciting me as an educator.  Great, so what types of activities would exemplify experiential learning?

Keeping in mind that the ESL educator needs to provide the situation and structure for the experience, but also facilitation for students’ reflection on the process and even on the cultural difficulties of teamwork (thinking Korean students here^^;), the lesson plan needs to reflect this.  The educator can adapt lessons to suite beginner to advanced ESL learners.

Think – do my students have a need/desire to learn this?  Are they interested in this?  How can I pull their personal skills and experience into the project/task?  How can I get their feelings invested into this?  How can we reflect on it without my pushing them uncomfortably?  And of course, as you may have guessed, do we have the time and tools to invest in a project/task such as this?

This list is not extensive – just something to get us thinking.  Please add some of your own ideas by commenting to this blog post!  ^^

  • Making  a poster
  • Making a PowerPoint presentation
  • Conducting an interview
  • “Re-Branding” a commonly used product
  • Dramatizations
  • Role-plays
  • Journaling
  • Making a video
  • Situational English – bringing the world to the classroom (restaurant, airport, etc.)
  • Making a music video
  • Creating a gameshow
  • Making a mock job or travel fair where each group represents a different profession or country
  • Making a trip itinerary
  • Creating a survival English booklet
  • Debates
  • Re-writing and illustrating fairy tales
  • Making or joining a book club
  • Creating a class website
  • Making a social etiquette book to help travelers or business people new to their country
  • Writing a research paper
  • “Teach a class”  – where they design and implement an English lesson, teaching it to the class.
  • Create a treasure hunt using clues (or even QR codes?)
  • Organizing a Fundraiser
  • Making a comic book
  • Doing a magic show
  • Puppet show

Examples of Experiential Learning in Action:

  • An adult ESL learner and business professional, participates in a classroom simulation – he’s bringing an important new client to a restaurant for small talk and a casual meeting.  The students have key topics they’ll need to discuss, but mostly the conversation is unprompted.  The teacher has set up a mock restaurant scene in the classroom to help them feel they’re really in the scene.  They’ll video-record the simulation, watch it, and reflect upon the process with the facilitation of the teacher.  They’ll hand in one page of reflective writing to the teacher next class.
  • A class of university students has been divided into small groups that have each been given a profession to explore and research – lawyer, doctor, anthropologist..  The class is going to give a mock job fair, with each group creating a small dramatic presentation on why others should choose their professional career upon graduation.  As part of their preparation, each group is encouraged to interview someone who is really in the profession they’ve been given (the professor has already prepared the contacts with industry professionals ahead of time, who in fact, also speak English^^).  Individually, each student is responsible for  journaling about the process as they go along.  The mock job fair day has all the groups presenting.  Afterwards, the professor does a great job of facilitating the reflection process and getting the students to discuss their experiences.  Many students realized that working in groups was more difficult than they expected, and some were surprised to find themselves in a leadership role.    A female student who was first aggrieved to learn their group had chosen CEO when in fact she wanted Artist, came to realize she learned a lot about being a CEO and was now more keenly interested in business.  They’ll journal about their personal reflections and hand in their journals to the professor.

—–

Kelly, C. (1997). David Kolb, the theory of experiential education and ESL.  Japan: The Internet TESL Journal, v.3, no. 9.  Found online at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Kelly-Experiential/

Knutsen, S.  (2003).  Experiential learning in second-language classrooms.  Canada: TESL  Canada Journal, v. 20, no. 2.

Rogers, A.  (1996).  Teaching adults (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Pre

Advice for Learning How to Give Advice

5 Dec

Knowing how to politely give advice is not only an excellent tool for making small talk, but helps ESL students establish friendships with native English speakers, engaging with them in a meaningful, friendly way.

I could probably conjecture that most Koreans are eager to make friends with an English-speaking foreigner so they can practice their English, share cultures, have an interesting time, and from my experience, perhaps because they genuinely want to show you “their Korea.”  And from my experience meeting new Korean friends, there is always a lot of advice sharing.  I hadn’t realized how often we native English speakers offer our thoughts and suggestions to others, especially to co-workers or friends.

I always make sure to include a good lesson or three on how ESL students can give advice.

A few of the difficulties I’ve noticed when teaching “Giving Advice”:

  • Advice is cultural and may not always be polite or practical when transferred to the listener’s culture.  Real life example:  Me – My stomach hurts today. Friend:  You should try making a big dung. 
  • It’s better to give advice that is closer to neutral rather than politically, emotionally or otherwise “fired up.”   In other words, suggesting solutions that are too strange can feel awkward and create distance between the speaker and listener. Real life example: Person 1 – I am tired of riding the bus.  Person 2 – Well, riding the bus saves the environment, so you should be happy about doing it.  
  • Being polite is not easy in a second language, even with the best intentions.  Native English speakers can often take offense easily (and here I’m speaking as a polite, “I’m sorry” loving Canadian).  Real life example:  Me – I’m feeling sick.  Co-workers – You ought to come to work anyways like other Koreans do.
Some resources for getting starting in planning your lesson on giving advice or for learning how to give advice:
Boggles ESL – Giving Advice printable and problem cards for Adult ESL learners.
MyEnglishPages – Asking for and giving advice.
ESLhq – Giving advice board game.
AuthorStream – Here’s a Powerpoint presentation that can be used in the classroom.
Try my Giving Advice Flashcards (pdf) – which can be downloaded and used in your ESL Classroom freely!  (FYI – the “star” symbol represents VERB with my students and I). Enjoy^^

The ESL Conversation Classic – “20 Questions” Printable Cards

1 Nov

I often find shy students who are proficient in English much more challenging to teach than early beginners who are brave in the face of learning a new language.   Trying to warm students up and get them feeling comfortable is an important task that every ESL Teacher should be or become expert at.  It will make your teaching life easier and more enjoyable.  Simply diving into a lesson without a group of smiling, engaged faces may prevent the not-so-social students from contributing during class.

In addition to being shy, I find quiet students are always the least likely to ask questions.  Having a “free-talking” class where I’m asking all the questions and they’re doing all the answering, isn’t exactly conversation.  So, here’s where the 20 Questions game is a perfect activity to bring together small groups into laughter and discussion, as well as to get students asking questions.

Here it is!  Feel free to download myJennifer Teacher – 20 Questions that includes instructions and the printable cards.

I also suggest you check out my list of amazing Classroom Conversation Starters and warm-ups that get students talking.

Learn to use Word EMPHASIS for English Fluency

14 Sep

I can’t emphasis enough how the proper use of  ’emphasis’ helps the ESL learner to sound more fluent when speaking English.  Learning how to use emphasis properly is helpful not only in preparing for English proficiency exams such as the TOEFL, IELTS or the TOEIC Speaking Test, but is equally important for academic and business situations.

Emphasis is the word in a sentence which is spoken with emphasis, in other words usually at a higher pitch and/or accompanied by a pause in speech.  There are a variety of reasons why emphasis is used.  Look at this list below for some reasons.

WHEN IS EMPHASIS USED?

  • the speaker wants to call to attention what is most important.  This is common when expressing opinions.
  • the speaker wants to imply or infer something without saying it directly.
  • the speaker is being accusatory.
  • the speaker is disagreeing with something said.
  • the speaker is being argumentative or sarcastic (emphasis is used liberally in arguing) ^^
  • the speaker has used inversion – in other words, changed the order of a sentence by adding a prepositional phrase at the beginning (example: SUDDENLY, the cat jumped up and scratched his face.)
  • the speaker wants to affirm or deny some action.  (example:  John DIDN’T go to school yesterday.)

LEARNING TO UNDERSTAND EMPHASIS

This is no easy task.  Becoming fluent in English is all about practice, exposure and time.  My husband is Korean and although is English is great, he still has difficulty with emphasis.  In fact, our conversation today inspired this blog post.  He said that when I speak Korean I add in English-style emphasis, when instead, I should learn to use proper Korean emphasis in all cases.  I suppose I had thought emphasis to be a more universal language tool… I was wrong.  There’s my ‘English-centric’ point of view creeping in again! 🙂

Since I’ve found that giving good examples is often the easiest way to “explain” something to my students, take a look below.  This is excerpted from a printable worksheet I created earlier which is in a matching activity for students. You can download it here: Jennifer Teacher – Using Emphasis

Take a look at the following examples, where the bolded words are emphasized.  Say them aloud and notice how the meaning, intention, inference or implication of the sentence changes.

a)   I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>  Someone else said it.

b)  did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>  Disputatious denial; Argumentative.

c)   I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>  Disputatious denial; Argumentative.

d)   I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>  You stole something else.

e)   I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>  Someone else stole it.

f)   I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>   You did something else with the bandanna, not steal it.

g)   I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>   You stole someone elses’ bandanna.

h)   I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>   You stole one of a different colour.

i)    I did not say you stole my red bandana.  —>   I “implied/wrote/suggested” you stole it, not “said.”

TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING!

Do these examples help you to understand the proper use of emphasis?   If so, try explaining the meanings of the following three sentences (leave a comment with your answers):

Q1)  Did you happen to get me a coffee, too?

Q2) What time are we supposed to meet on Saturday?

Q3) Why are you studying English?

MORE RESOURCES

If you feel you need some more help, try these external resources.  There aren’t many available on this unique subject, but here are a couple I’d recommend:

About.com: Learning to use Emphasis in English

Prof. Argenis A. Zapata: Ways of Expressing Emphasis in English

Teaching Children ESL through Yoga

4 Sep

I’m so excited to have the opportunity of bringing together two of my interests, yoga and teaching, this September here in Seoul.  I will be teaching children English Yoga at a studio not far from our villa in Hwagok-Dong.  Actually, it’s my husband’s new Fitness Studio – very exciting!

So, here I am preparing lesson plans for these English Kids Yoga classes that will integrate functional English vocabulary, conversational English skills, relaxation, enjoyment, and a breath of light into world of yoga poses and philosophies.

I thought I would share some of the online resources I’ve come across in my preparations and research:

Prep & Lesson Planning for Teaching Kids Yoga:

General Yoga Resources I Refer to:

  • Teaching Yoga by Mark Stephens
  • Light on Life – B.K.S. Iyengar:  Great for intricate knowledge into correct positioning and the yogic lifestyle (in other words, not eating a cookie while I write this^^).
  • Yoga Journal : Nothing beats sitting down with a copy of this magazine and a pot of herbal tea!
If you teach yoga for children, ESL or otherwise, please leave a comment and tell me about your classes!  I’d love to see your blog or website!  Thanks, and …. namaste.
^^

Does poetry help ESL students learn English?

29 Jul

Poems are expressions of how the writer sees the world around them.  They’re rhymes and cadence, tongue-twists and lyrics.  They can be haiku, stanzas, plays or songs.  Poetry is so many inspiring and motivating things, that if you’re not using poetry to learn English as a second language, you’re not embracing the culture from English-speaking countries.

Poems are temporal – they describe the poet’s feelings and their environment in which they live, looking at the world through their own eyes.  And one’s view of the world is influenced by the culture.

I love including poems into my ESL Classroom.  They’re so FLEXIBLE!  You can use poems with any other topic of discussion.

How can I use poetry to learn English

Whether you’re learning English by yourself or taking classes, it’s good to challenge yourself once in a while.  There are countless ways to learn English through poetry.  Any good TESOL teacher would already be employing many different ways to incorporate poetry into learning.   Importantly, you want to feel comfortable when with poems.  Remember, there really are no rules!  Just try to have fun and enjoy the challenge of learning.  Don’t be discouraged.

Try these suggestions yourself or with your ESL Teacher:

  • Do poetry theater, having students act out short plays.
  • Introduce children’s books.  You’ll find rhymes and rhythms, the words often sound pleasing and sing-song when read aloud by parents and educators.  This is a perfect approach for ESL Learners!  Of course, you don’t want to insult adult learners with children’s books, but bringing these concepts into the classroom through the pondering of poetry is a wonderful way to promote language learning and literacy.
  • Song clozes.  These can be of any kind of music and with varying degrees of difficulty.  A great cross lesson for learning slang.
  • Write haiku style poems about the weather or class.
  • Teach rhymes, riddles and tongue twisters and then have the students make their own.
  • Write a poem together as a class on a topic you’re learning about. Include key vocabulary.
Please leave a comment for discussion!
Have you tried some of these suggestions?  Which one was your favorite?  Thanks for sharing.

What to expect on the TOEFL iBT Speaking test – sample questions, too!

22 Jul

The infamous speaking section of the TOEFL iBT (the internet based TOEFL test), has many ESL hopefuls nervous.  That’s fair because the pace of the questions and the content can be difficult for even some native English speakers.  Of the overall TOEFL iBT test, about 25% is speaking, accounting for approximately 20 minutes of test-taking time.   It focuses on academic English and to get a great score you need to answer questions in a clear, concise way demonstrating an understanding of the material.

 

Breakdown of the 6 Speaking Questions/Tasks:

To ace the speaking part of the TOEFL iBT you need to know what to expect.  There are 6 speaking questions which you answer by speaking into a headset.  Let me break them down for you:

The first 2 questions are called Independent Tasks and are on topics familiar to the test-taker.   You have 15 seconds to prepare an answer and 45 seconds to speak.

A sample Independent Task question is: “Some universities require first year students to live in dormitories on campus.  Other’s allow students to live off campus.  Which policy to you think is better for first year students and why? Include details and examples in your answer.”

The last 4 questions are called Integrated Tasks and involve using more than one skill – reading, writing and speaking for example.  In some cases you can read the question first, then listen to it, prepare your answer and then speak.  Other times you’ll listen first, prepare and then answer.  After listening and reading the test-taker is given a short time to prepare a response, about 30seconds, and then must proceed with answering as requested.  Usually the response time is 60 seconds.

A sample Integrated Task question is “For thousands of years humans have been able to domesticate, or tame, many large mammals that live in the wild together in herds.  Once tamed, these mammals are used for agricultural work and transportation.  Yet some herd mammals are not easily domesticated.  A good indicator of a mammal’s suitability for domestication is how protective the animal is of it’s territory.  Non-territorial mammals are more easily domesticated than territorial mammals because they can live close together with animals from other herds.  A second indicator is that animals have a hierarchical social structure, in which herd members follow a leader, are easy to domesticate , since a human can function as a ‘leader.’ ”  <THEN YOU WOULD LISTEN TO A SHORT 1-2 minute LECTURE BEFORE GETTING A QUESTION…> “The professor describes the behavior of horses and antelopes in herds.  Explain how their behaviour is related to their suitability for domestication.”

 

Now, if you’re thinking that seems difficult – you’re not alone.  The TOEFL test can be one of the most important tests of your life, your score determining whether or not you can be accepted into the overseas school  or company of your choice.  Never fear!  Jennifer Teacher is here!  If you’re ready to start preparing seriously for your test, contact me.

5 Hints on Learning to Use Idioms Properly

10 Jul

If your lips are sealed, I’ll share some of my no-brainer hints on learning to use idioms in everyday conversation.

Idioms are fun to use, often quirky and can seem so strange to a non-native English speaker that they are often hard to forget.  For ESL learners, learning idiomatic expressions presents a challenge, but using them successfully in the right way, in the right conversations is a step closer to fluency.

Hint 1: Practice using idioms in everyday conversation.

Native English speakers don’t realize how many idioms they use in daily conversation.  Speaking with an English learner who uses idioms often makes us feel more comfortable and more understood.

Hint 2:  Use an idiom in the proper context.

In Korea, there are some idioms that Koreans have adopted and use quite often.  I always love hearing them and find I introduce one or two each conversation class and encourage my students to try to squeeze them into the conversation until they learn the context properly.

Hint 3: ‘Stick to‘ commonly used idioms.

Even for those who use idioms well and incorporate them into conversation, there is a tendency for the expressions to be out-dated or not commonly used.  For example, I had one student say to me, “Don’t you want to have kittens when you forget your bus card?”   While he used the context well, (have kittens means to feel very upset or angry), I can’t say I’ve ever heard that expression used in pop culture.

Hint 4: Idioms are often cultural.

Idiomatic expressions representative of the culture they come from making it difficult for those from different cultures to understand, they can be down right confusing!  Even in the English-speaking world, there are different idioms in common use.  While it’s difficult for an ESL learner to know if an idiom would be more popular in America than in England, being aware that some people from some countries may not understand your use of an idiom.  That’s okay, keep trying!

Hint 5:  Group idioms together to learn faster.

Try learning idioms that are similar, such as those having to do with body parts first.  Learn as many as you can before switching to another category and you’ll soon be head over heels in love with idioms! ^^

For an extensive list of idioms and phrases to get your juices flowing, click here.

What to Look for in a TOEFL Study Guide Book

5 Jul

There are many reputable (and some less reputable) study guide books available in multiple languages, aimed at helping students better prepare for their TOEFL test.   With so many books to choose from, you want to find the one or two that will really help you achieve TOEFL success.

When you’re choosing a study guide book one of the first things you’ll want to do is be sure to consider the type of TOEFL test you need to prepare for.  Not many places still offer the written test, so you’re more likely to write a computer-based test (CBT) or an internet-based test (iBT).   Also, look for a current edition.

ETS (Educational Testing Service) is the company that manages and creates the TOEFL tests, and so naturally their study guides are really popular.

Look for guide books that have CD’s to help with listening comprehension and audio exercises.  Sample tests should also be included, preferrably with answer keys.   I find the student planners included in some books help my students reach their study objectives in an organized manner.

The essay-writing section of the book should be clear and with many examples and opportunities to write your own.  Practice drills of all aspects of the TOEFL test are key to success.

If the study guide your considering doesn’t meet the above recommendations, keep looking!  And remember, this is a challenging test and there is no “magic book” that will magically prepare you for your TOEFL  test.  You’ll need to study hard, work with an ESL Teacher or Tutor who specializes in TOEFL test prep and find opportunities to practice the language.

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